Int J Biol Sci 2019; 15(8):1755-1770. doi:10.7150/ijbs.34878 This issue

Research Paper

Molecular Mechanism for Selective Cytotoxicity towards Cancer Cells of Diselenide-Containing Paclitaxel Nanoparticles

Jing Li1*, Yue Gu2*, Wei Zhang3, Cui-Yu Bao1, Cai-Rong Li1, Jing-Yi Zhang1, Tao Liu1, Shuai Li1, Jia-Xi Huang1, Zhi-Gang Xie3, Shu-Cheng Hua2✉, Ying Wan4✉

1. Hubei Province Key Laboratory on Cardiovascular, Cerebrovascular, and Metabolic Disorders, Hubei University of Science and Technology, Xianning, Hubei 437100, P. R. China,
2. Department of Reparatory and Critical Care Medicine, the First Affiliated Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun 130021, P. R. China,
3. State Key Laboratory of Polymer Physics and Chemistry, Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences5625 Renmin Street, Changchun, Jilin 130022, P. R. China
4. College of Life Science and Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, P. R. China
*Authors contributed equally.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Li J, Gu Y, Zhang W, Bao CY, Li CR, Zhang JY, Liu T, Li S, Huang JX, Xie ZG, Hua SC, Wan Y. Molecular Mechanism for Selective Cytotoxicity towards Cancer Cells of Diselenide-Containing Paclitaxel Nanoparticles. Int J Biol Sci 2019; 15(8):1755-1770. doi:10.7150/ijbs.34878. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Diselenide-containing paclitaxel nanoparticles (SePTX NPs) indicated selectivity of cytotoxicity between cancerous and normal cells in our previous work. Herein, the mechanism is revealed by molecular biology in detail. Cancer cells and normal cells were treated with the SePTX NPs and cell proliferation was measured using 3-(4, 5-dimethyl-2-thiazolyl)-2, 5-diphenyl-2-H-tetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay and cell morphology. Measurement of reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and biochemical parameters were employed to monitor oxidative stress of the cells. JC-1 assay was used to detect the mitochondrial dysfunction of the cells. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) analysis was used to detect apoptosis of the cells. Immunofluorescence analysis and western blotting were employed to monitor changes in signaling pathway-related proteins. Compared with PTX, SePTX NPs has a good selectivity to cancer cells and can obviously induce the proliferation damage of cancer cells, but has no significant toxicity to normal cells, indicating that SePTX NPs has a specific killing effect on cancer cells. The results of mechanism research show that SePTX NPs can successfully inhibit the depolymerization of microtubules and induce cell cycle arrest, which is related to the upregulation of p53 and CyclinB1. Simultaneously, SePTX NPs can successfully induce oxidative stress, cause mitochondrial dysfunction, resulting in mitochondrial pathway-mediated apoptosis, which is related to the upregulation of autophagy-related protein LC3-II. On the other hand, lewis lung cancer C57BL/6 mice were used to evaluate the anti-tumor effects of SePTX NPs in vivo. Our data show that SePTX NPs exhibited high inhibiting efficiency against the growth of tumors and were able to reduce the side effects. Collectively, these data indicate that the high antitumor effect and selective cytotoxicities of SePTX NPs is promising in future cancer therapy.

Keywords: Diselenide, Paclitaxel, Nanoparticles, Selective cytotoxicity, Molecular mechanism